As GCSE Stats Come in, UK Struggles to Explain Dip

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According to recent results from GCSE exams in the United Kingdom, the number of students who received five grades in the A-C range have fallen to 52.6% from 59.2% last year, including the key subjects of English and math.

The results are causing many state schools to face closure or takeover.  Officials believe the number of schools to fail could quadruple by this summer to over 600 schools.

All state schools are required to show at least 40% of students receiving five good grades or to have made separate pupil progress targets.  Those who fail to make those targets are taken over by new leadership or closed.

Last year 154 schools failed.

The drop in scores follows a major reform to stop schools from “playing the system” and instead offer a more accurate depiction of education standards.  However, the reform has struck a cord with head teachers, who view the reform as a “statistical manipulation” causing a lack of trust in this year’s results.

According to Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, this year’s results are “not a reflection of the quality of teaching nor the amount of effort and hard work put in by students”.

The Department for Education reports that GCSE has changed the way it measures results in the past year.  As such, it is difficult to compare the two years’ results.

The Department for Education has suggested a new way to compare last year’s results to this year’s, which finds that 56% of students had received at least five grades of A-C last year, including English and math, compared to this year’s results of 52.6%.

As testing retakes are no longer included, this year’s figures do not include results that had been calculated into a students’ final grades just last year.

In addition, 3,000 mainly vocational qualifications have been removed from the figures to meet “new quality criteria,” despite being considered equivalent to GCSEs.  Qualifications are also no longer allowed to apply to more than one GCSE.  In previous years, they could be used for multiple GCSEs at once.

The changes were made due to multiple claims that schools were entering students more than once as an attempt at grade inflation.  According to Michael Gove, the former Education Secretary, “when a small minority cheat, the system is corrupted for the others”.

According to new Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, the changes to scores would only affect they way schools are measured, not individual students, who are still allowed to include the retest attempts for university or job applications.

“We have made important changes to a system that rewarded the wrong outcomes,” she said. “We have stripped out qualifications that were of little value and are making sure pupils take exams when they are ready, not before.

“Today’s results show some big variations in results in all types of schools but crucially changes in performance tables will have no impact on individual pupils’ results.

“Young people can only succeed in life, and fulfil their potential, if they are given the tools to do so. The old exams system did not do that. Our new system will.”